Los Angeles is the leading industrial center in the United States. “Industry” is a very broad classification, and it includes resources, services, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, transportation, and communication. More specifically, for Los Angeles it surely includes aircraft, aerospace, entertainment, the port, petroleum, clothing, computers and tools and scientific instruments, furniture, rubber and plastics, chemicals, fabricated metal products and iron and steel, and printing and publishing. On the street, some industry looks generic, housed in large rectangular boxes—especially in industrial parks and industrial cities. Other industry looks quite specific, with tanks and pipes and smokestacks, or with large piles of sand or garbage or scrap. The detail and complexity, seen merely from the street and through open doors, demand a knowledge of industrial processes. Industrial documentary allows us to begin to ask, What is this?, Why is it here?, What was this once?, How does it work?
I came upon Union Pacific Avenue in the course of an earlier project documenting storefront houses of worship in Los Angeles. Sure enough, to the north especially, there is a residential neighborhood (and hence the churches). But on the Avenue, and mostly toward the south and the railroad yard, there is a wonderfully rich and compact industrial neighborhood threaded through by well-used railroad tracks. And in places the residential and the industrial are interdigitated, reflecting historical precedent and changing usage and zoning, creating a remarkable urban fabric.
Professor of Planning
University of Southern California